Chapter 17

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FOR the first time, Lily didn't have to go to training. Arianna let her sleep in for once, saying that it was a treat to her, after all the hard work she'd been doing. Lily had said it was nonsense, of course, but had eventually accepted.

So, it was only when she smelled breakfast that she got dressed and walked out of the room.

"Good morning, Soldier Quilan," Arianna said, then beamed, "I never thought I'd hear that."

"Hear what?" Lily asked, taking her breakfast bowl.

"Soldier Quilan," Arianna said, turning away.

"Ari—" Lily started, but Arianna shook her head, smiling.

"I've gotten over it, Lily. Yes, I used to be upset that I would never defend my kingdom, but now I'm at peace with that fact." Arianna sat down opposite Lily, her face soft.

Lily sighed, "Alright. But for what it's worth, I think you're wonderful at what you do."

"Yes, it's lucky my hands are skillful," Arianna grinned, wiggling her fingers.

Lily was silent for a few moments, biting her lip, before she asked, "How did you. . . injure yourself?"

Arianna sighed, pursing her lips. "I was very young when it happened. My father was a woodcutter, and I had followed him to work one day. Somehow, I got in the path of a falling tree—" Arianna's voice cracked, and she looked away.

"You don't have to tell me," Lily said, cursing herself for even asking.

Arianna shook her head, "No, it's alright. It's just been a long time since I spoke of it." She took a deep breath before continuing, "My father saw me, and he ran towards me. He tried pushing me out of the way, but my—my foot was pinned under the tree."

"Oh, Ari," Lily breathed, her lips parting.

Arianna shook her head violently, "It was worse for my father. He sustained the worst injury—it hit his head, and—and he was never the same."

A tear ran down Arianna's face, and Lily instinctively leaned over and brushed it away.

Arianna took in a breath, "He never recovered—he soon passed on, and the doctor said that my foot would never properly heal."

"Does it still hurt?"

Arianna shook her head, "Not much anymore, though it used to when I was younger."

"Where was your mother?" Lily asked.

"She—she was with me until I was sixteen, when one of the first Gongjensu attacks happened. She was a great soldier, but—she never made it."

"Arianna," Lily breathed, her eyes watering as well. The girl had been through so much, but she was still so kind and brave.

"Do you pity me?" Arianna watched her carefully.

"No, I think you're incredibly strong, Ari," Lily said, giving her a sad smile.

"Thank you. But I think it's fate. We've both had terrible things happen to us- maybe that's why we found each other," Arianna said.

"We both lost our family," Lily nodded, holding Arianna's hand.

"But we're both strong enough to be okay," Arianna finished, squeezing Lily's palm in return.

"I agree," Lily said, smiling at her sister.

***

It was finally time for her to go to Zenda's.

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